Friends of Otero Press Release - For Immediate Release: March 26, 2004

FINAL ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT OF OTERO CANYON INCOMPLETE

On 3/23/04 Kirtland Air Force Base officials made their final Environmental Assessment available concerning their proposed fencing of more than 21,000 acres of withdrawn public lands in Eastern Bernalillo County. These lands include a popular recreational area known as Otero Canyon.

The Environmental Assessment lacks specific details about both the location of their proposed fence and the timeline for making lands east of it available to the public. Thus, it is impossible for the public to determine the exact impact that the fencing project will have on the extensive trail system that has developed in Otero Canyon over the past thirty years.

Kirtland officials took nine months to complete this final Environmental Assessment. The public is now being given thirty days to comment on it.

Without adequate details and a limited amount of time allowed for public comment, it is questionable whether the community will be able to evaluate and to respond to Kirtland's proposal adequately. In addition, there has been no mention of a public meeting on this issue.

Currently, the Friends of Otero are requesting the following information: (1) specific details about the location of the proposed fence; (2) an extension on the public comment period until July 1, 2004; and (3) a public meeting to discuss the new EA.

In order to acquire this information, the requests are being directed to Kirtland AFB as well as to the following entities, all of whom have supported keeping parts of the withdrawal lands open to the public:

Congresswoman Heather Wilson (R-NM)
Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)
Congressman Tom Udall (D-NM)
Governor Bill Richardson
Albuquerque City Council
Bernalillo County Commission
Village of Tijeras
Albuquerque Open Space Division

The public is urged to voice its requests as well. For more information, individuals can visit the Save Otero website at http://www.fooriders.org/otero where sample letters have been posted as well as addresses and email addresses to the above supporters.